A Review of the Oxford Chichewa-English/English-Chichewa Dictionary by Steven Paas

A Review of the Oxford Chichewa-English/English-Chichewa Dictionary by Steven Paas

Beaton Galafa (Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China), Madalitso Mulingo (Nkhoma University, Lilongwe, Malawi) and Mtende Wezi Nthara (Catholic University of Malawi, Limbe, Malawi)
DOI: 10.4018/IJTIAL.2019010106

Abstract

This article reviews the Oxford Chichewa-English/English-Chichewa Dictionary compiled by Steven Paas, published in 2016 by Oxford University Press in Cape Town. Upon a review of the dictionary, a number of issues arise. The dictionary's significance rests in its use as reference material for language learners, its semantic precision and the relevance with which translation and other disciplines treat it. Regardless of its wide coverage of the Chichewa and English lexicons, the dictionary has a number of flaws which are misleading and confusing for the dictionary's users. Such errors include ambiguity over dictionary type, inclusion of proper nouns as lexical entries, lack of detailed grammatical information and silence on morphological typology among others. This paper, therefore, concludes that the dictionary leaves a lot to be desired and recommends that the next edition of the dictionary take into account the highlighted issues.
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Background

A bilingual dictionary is a dictionary whose entries are in one language and their definitions are in another. It is a very important tool for both speakers and learners of a foreign language (Asma, 2010). There is a lot of scholarly work worldwide examining the strengths and challenges of bilingual dictionaries. Most of the researches have involved a close scrutiny of widely studied international languages whose data is readily available. Numerous studies have also focused on various dictionaries that involve an international language and a corresponding local one in a particular locality. Research shows an unending debate on the significance (or lack of) of a bilingual dictionary to language learners.

Asma (2010) observes that bilingual dictionaries are a preference for most beginners in language learning because of their lack of vocabulary in the target language. The study by Asma (2010) on the use of bilingual dictionaries also ascertains that these types of dictionaries are mostly developed for translators although they are equally used by several other stakeholders such as students. This is largely due to the dictionaries’ ability to help them find immediate suitable equivalents (Asma, 2010). In agreement with these findings, Roohani and Khosravi (2011) found that frequency of a bilingual dictionary use has a significant positive relationship with writing in a second language. The sample of their study included university students who used the English-Persian/Persian-English dictionary in a test. The study recommends the use of bilingual dictionaries for learners of a second language who are not at an advanced level. Similarly, Kung (2015) seconds Chang (2004) who argues that the consultation of bilingual dictionaries can potentially provide learners with the benefits that both bilingual and monolingual dictionaries possess, such as the juxtaposition of both target language definitions and mother tongue equivalents. In a study on dictionary use for foreign language students in Turkey, Tulgar (2017) notes that integration of bilingual dictionaries in language learning is a preferred regular practice amongst university students. In the study, students forming the population sample shared the perspective that bilingual dictionaries are not only designed to provide word-to-word translations to convey meaning between languages. They consider dictionaries as language learning materials in which learners can find additional information about other components and aspects in the target language (Tulgar, 2017).

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